Prologue: To the General Reader
“…she was, or claimed to be, violently allegeric to the ordinary laundry detergents that are used on most people’s clothing, the scent or poisonous vapors from which she believed persisted on that clothing essentially indefinitely or at least for as long as a normal person would wear it without subjecting it to the indelible residues of the toxic detergent yet again.
A female friend of mine whom I had known since not long after 9/11, whom I encountered again at a place I thought unlikely to, a film theater in Manhattan, told me a story involving the effect of my person as normally attired upon hers that point by point reiterated the above, which is a quotation from a story on my blog about an encounter with a radical feminist in Berkeley many years ago. This friend I had forgotten has long said she is asthmatic, so perhaps her claim is credible, but I did wonder at the uncanniness of hearing this from her for the first time ever. In fact, upon seeing her a second, and third time, in New York at the same theater, some months after our first encounter following my return, she spoke out a series of halting objections to formal and stylistic aspects of my manner of speaking. When we corresponded briefly in following days, she made further complaints about form and style of my communicating. I was initially put off by the fact that almost immediately after declaring her materialistic phobia we both left the museum, because she showed clear discomfort at the sudden appearance behind her of a policeman, at a moment when I had just said something personal about an experience unrelated to her or her ideology (see below), and the next thing that happened was she started screaming at some man who apparently had pushed against her as she was trying to exit through the revolving door. I did not see it, and merely watched as she chewed him out and he replied nonchalantly by saying someone had pushed him. Had she considered this matter better, being like me a long-time New Yorker, she might have realized that in crowded subways and other situations things like that can happen through no one’s fault. But why, I wondered, the almost immediate conjunction between her claim about laundry detergents poisoning the air she breathes like Communists putting fluoride in our drinking water (as in Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove”) and the iteration of her grand bête noir of hated male aggressively? What the fuck was up here? I probably should have treated this as an unwelcome sign that functionally is like provocation if not harassment (very appropriate in the age of Trump, as discussed below). Her allergy could be real for all I know, but her subsequent objections to all manner of my speaking and writing suggested to me that something here either does not add up or adds up in a decisively inauspicious way. The story, which I began to recount to her, though she may well have read this also on my blog, of my own encounters upon my return to New York with a certain few people in my previous acquaintance whose behavior was so odd and unaccountable that I could only wonder (it is in most such cases, I think, impossible to know; perhaps as in Popper’s philosophy of science, there are strategies to get information that will seem to disprove such hypotheses, but verification of them may not easily proceed further than uncertain conjuncture, and of course talking about it, as a lawyer warned me, can lead to people knee-jerkingly saying that you are being paranoid. And they want people to be paranoid as well as afraid, even if the price of this timidity is some anger, which they can also use against you).
I write about this because I think we can expect that in the new age of Trump there will be lots more of this, and anyone who has ever expressed a dissent thought politically in any context could be put on a suspect list (one million Americans have been), and then you might be surprised who and what comes out of the woodwork, what kinds of curveballs people you would least expect this of will throw at you — and obviously you must know how to handle them rightly or you will be made to regret it). If someone introduces or re-introduces themself to you and they seem to be very cool, you may at any moment find that something is amiss and it looks like they are playing a game. It could well be that the explanation is not intentional (on the part of an agentive force operating behind the scenes; that is, that the person is a police informant perhaps employed largely to harass, provoke, frustrated, or entrap you; most often social action is effectively coordinated by what Foucault called “strategies without strategists”; and this explanation can be called functional or ideological. Many Americans do similar things that can only ultimately be explained by wrong beliefs inculcate by institutions like schools and universities, or media and the entertainment industry, and so by their socialization. The common elements, however, of intentional and coordinated versus unintended, ideologically-driven, and functional actions like this is that you will experience it as puzzling and somehow aversive and on examination it will be very difficult to come up with a plausible explanation for the odd behavior that is favorable to the assumption that the person is a true friend. America is the land where people make friends easily and can become astonishingly intolerant sooner if not later. The rule should be that if your friend’s behavior appears to evince only motives that you cannot find on any likely interpretation consonant with your own, then he or she is not a friend.
The following remarks may seem pointed; they are not meant to annoy. My flattery and words of more mere kindness and gentleness will come later if you continue to read this email, and I do not consider you under any obligation to do so. This statement is true not without qualification, and that will be made clear below.
I always assume even in personal correspondence that reader and writer have distinct jobs. The writer’s responsibility is for what he says. That does not mean that he necessarily must adapt his style or what he says to the normative expectations of the audience. He may choose to anticipate them, but if so can still decide as any artist does whether to merely accommodate them (risking servility and boringness: If the sender’s message only meets the receiver’s expectations, it does not say anything novel and so is not information, not a statement, not even a message. The reader alone and not the writer are responsible for how the reader understands and interprets what he reads, and for the fact that he reads it, or continues to do so. So if you are already annoyed and may reproach me at the end for having said too much or written to you on the wrong topic, than please cut right now your moral losses since the resentment you must already bear towards what you have reluctantly but with morbid curiosity already read renders you guilty already before the God of writers and readers, and friends who are or should be both (you do know I presume of the literary letter? My only condition for it is that writing is used to express thought. Even when it is personal. Few people do this; it is not the general norm, which is to say, the normative expectation of the silent and semi-literate majority. Tant pis pour eux! I hereby pray to this God to absolve your sin now when the accumulated capital of it is still relatively small.
On being offended, I call to mind a teacher of mine in my youth who was something of a mentor and knew me well. One day I called and left a message with his wife. Both were therapists also by profession. I said, “Please tell Aaron that I called. And please also ask him not to call me back at my present home address, because it is my father’s house, and my father does not like him.” She said, “Is that what you wanted to tell me?” This was a statement in the guise of a question, an insult in the guise of the false observation that she was victim of mine. I was shocked and horrified and in subsequent years I have, I admit, sometimes wrongly thought that this is a very womanish thing to say and do, because so many American women are so easily offended, and they take everything personally. It was funny to me because all I could have said was, No, Mrs. Heilman, all I meant is that I would like (and then repeating my statement). I meant what I said. It wasn’t a coded message. Not everything is personal, even if the liberals used feminism in fact along with the therapeutic ideology to make the political only personal so that there is no political. Not every approach to a woman by a man is sexual, not every question is personal, etc. Later I realized that many, perhaps even most, American men are this way too. The only difference being that they may hurt you physically if they decide to or find that they feel insulted. (But on this, did you get my question – I don’t know – about Greek women? Is it there still only men who gather for the pleasure of argument, allow their passions to get heated, etc.? I observed a cafe job interview today with two young American women, the applicant clearly a talented and appropriately self-confident artist, and I realized immediately with some interest and admiration that they were using a style of communication (verbal mannerisms, tone, gesture – she was very expressive, though I thought I noticed numerous discursive strategies of reassurance within what clearly was a very well-cultivated personal style of self-presentation by a young woman artist), and that the conversation would have been very different if ether participant had been an American men – we are equally expressive, or can be, but with different mannerisms – for instance, American men with each other, like Italian men and probably most men unless maybe they are absurdly middle class and protestant, will often sprinkle their talk with profanities, and women even today rarely do. More importantly, men in conversation tend to overtly or subtly challenge either while women tend to reassure each other and share intimate if often fairly anodyne self-revelations. And there’s other differences, it’s fascinating; I kind of wish we could all narrow this gap.
As you know, I came to New York partly to escape this (my mentor’s wife and people like her), and I returned to New York from France only to realize that I had failed to escape it, and that was painful and it still hurts.
So I don’t know how you will react to this email, but its length is a function of what I wanted to say, including not more nor less, and all of what you might consider anger here is fully sublimated into thoughts about what is true or just, as I think is proper. I take full responsibility here for what I have explicitly said and that alone. Please, if you are going to claim that a set of words such as those in my speech or writing seem to you merely angry or assaultative or violent, as words cannot be unless they are threats, and I will never do anything violent to you (which I of course feel the need to say for only one reason, and that is the context of your militant feminism and things you have said, like you would never share an apartment with another men or even allow one as a guest.
That implies I think that you hold the common and horribly wrong second wave feminist view that all men are potential rapists, which is merely a version of the common liberal view, which really dates from Hobbes, that all persons are potentially violent (and so need to be surveilled and controlled by the police and policing of various kinds). The error here is simple: It is true in one sense but not in another, and it is the second sense that is decisive here. We are animals but also have reason, and an adult citizen is normatively self-determining and autonomous through the rational determination of the will (there is no such thing as a non-rational will, although there are of course bad reasons and motives, but as I think Arendt thought, such evil and badness of character come from insufficient clear and rigorous thought).
Here it is simple. Any person can commit a murder, in the sense that the kinds of acts that can constitute that crime if effective in realizing a certain consequence, viz., the death of the other, are acts that any embodied intelligent subject such as human persons are “can” perform; in one sense of “can” anyway, the sense that is not equivalent to will or desire (which is not the same as inclination though it can include it; Kant showed it need not and perhaps should not) and is. In another sense, only those persons are “capable of” or rather, “might,” become murderers who tacitly will themselves as such in willing such an action.
Thus, it is very well possible that a person who is asked, say by a policing health care worker, “Do you think you might harm someone,” will say, “No, I will not.” And if they reply, “Well, that’s good that you don’t wish to right now, but of course you might — later, perhaps, maybe if you are not “stable” under our care.” And the only proper reply then is, “No, it is not possible that I will do that, not at all, because I know who I am and what I will and will not do, and under condition whatever will I ever do that.” “But you are capable of it? Surely you admit that? I am! See, I have all kinds of criminal tendencies, we all do, and that is why we all must obey our bosses, as I obey mine, and comply with the instructions of those whose job is to take care of us so that we do not do anything we might regret, given that we always might.” “I am sorry for you that you do not know who you are, especially given that persons in your profession regularly do people they have great power over a great deal of harm, and most seem to think nothing of it, precisely because they think that good is obedience to the authorities who claim to represent the law (or the national health or purity or good governance or the nature or necessity of things, or…), and so they do harm to people by obeying their bosses and blame their victims for not obeying when often the sole just act is one of refusal to obey, or comply as your profession prefers to term this.” And of course, that is precisely what one cannot say. They don’t want you to be a morally independent autonomous adult; they may ever find that threatening or pretend to. The welfare state in capitalist societies is always an instrument of infantilization, in ours particularly so. The welfare state is the cold war against the power. The police are always ready, though, to step in if and when they are called for. The position I take on this is Arendt’s position which is based on Kant’s, and it is quite applicable today because of what Trump is the name. They are skeptics who mistrust everyone, and this is the measure of how Anglophone liberalism (free markets and laissez-faire plus personal liberties and rights that accrue from limitations on the powers of state and corporate or private actors) is still Hobbesian; the liberty ideology based on property right and limits to powers is always a tacit apology for the Leviathan state. Their skepticism calls for an epistemology of empiricism, and since they doubt your motives (you are a suspected criminal for them qua criminal type, by virtue not of actions or statements but imputed dispositions, imputed just as in the liberal’s “microagressions,” discernible only by the expert interpreter armed with an ideology), you are supposed to adopt the same skeptical and a posteriori standpoint towards yourself. But with one’s own self and thinking, and desire and will or intention, one can only be Cartesian and Kantian.
(Badiou has a book, “Of what is Sarkozy the name?” Maybe I want to write, “Of what is Trump the name?” He is the name of something that started long ago and was mostly quite firmly in place already when he was elected; his opponent in the general election is equally a partisan (and architect) of it, but with a very different discursive style and with claims to “liberal” ideologies rather than authoritarian and nationalist/populist ones.)
My only reason for making this point is that second wave feminism makes exactly the same mistake in the case of sexual violence. It is true that rape can only be performed by a man and a woman would have to either use a prosthetic device, which is certainly rare and would be relatively distancing on subjectively (the actor) though not objectively (the person acted upon), or ring for a man to come who will take care of the insolent suitor, something that as you know I think is done all the time.
That is one reason I do not think women are better than men (necessarily); the two genders still tend to differ but this only gives them each different characteristic virtues or vices or forms thereof. The other men who threatened to rape me 35 years ago did not do so because they were men, nor because they were prisoners, nor because they were angry, nor because they thought I was “gay,” but because they were rapists. The necessary and sufficient condition of someone being capable of committing that crime is that they have the will to do so. Otherwise, if all men are naturally disposed to violent crime because they have pricks (or because men are more aggressive and militant), then why would anyone who thinks that want to have any association at all with any man at all?
If you are not certain on the matter either on a priori grounds (a theory about all men), then you are in error on a very important
philosophical point that almost certainly renders any continued association between us impossible for me, while if you are doubtful of it on a posteriori grounds that in your thinking have anything to do with me in particular, than you indeed either should give me a suitable explanation to which I have the opportunity to respond in a discussion that shall, ideally, continue until the matter is resolved to mutual satisfaction, or else similarly, or at the very least, I must be extremely careful around you, mainly to be sure I am never alone with you not in public, because women like that will cry wolf. I call these Women-Children; they are as dangerous as men-children. Both are naifs, most are liberals, those who merely appear this way are fool mongers and all of these cannot be friends of mine. You are no child. If I had thought you a confused woman child I would never have spent more than one exchange of repliques with you. You are not like that, but I think you are a second wave feminist, because the third wave and punk feminists that I respect and like are not like that at all. This country has moved beyond it, though it may have needed Hilary’s defeat at the steep price of Trump’s victory to make this a solid declaration now very widely understood.
The thing is, left-liberals motivated by justified outrage at social injustices, experienced, remembered, or imagined, must move beyond the position of mere reaction and towards something more constructional and thoughtful, which requires the intermediate step of a firm prise de conscience that confers a certain confidence even in the midst of the contingency awareness of which can intimidated and make cowards of us all. (Which is what Hamlet meant by “conscience”: forbidding reflections on what might happen if one does what he considers he ought to do; here he wrongly thinks that morality and courage are matters of representational knowledge, when they are matters of critical thought).
It is fine in principle, dear friend, if you have strong opinions about some (in fact) controversial topic like “men” (whatever that means – to you) or your second wave feminism (which I absolutely and passionately despise as you know) but are, as you have been continually, each and every time you mention this gigantic bugbear of yours, absolutely and vehemently (you have shouted me down in an instance on silencing my response to your deliberately vague but angry provocations) refuse to discuss it. NFW! Say something to me and I can respond; you may not as far as I am concerned shout me down; of course, all I can do then is raise my own shouting further, which is stupid, and thus the thing to do is say f.o. and walk off.
Please therefore do not again refer in my audition refer to or hint strongly at any complaint based on your (apparently either extremist or militantly liberal (tacitly rightist, I suspect, which is true if you are a second waver, as they are carceral feminists, angry at men in general and suspicious of all) gender politics. (“My identity is so offended and angered at your identity, and the propositional claims I find through my hermeneutic expertise latent in your behavior though unknown to you. So stop being you here now, when I am here now.”)
Your saying these things to me is out of place when I have done nor said absolutely nothing to warrant this. And that is certainly the case. You never said otherwise.
No friend of mine who spends any time with me will be much appreciated alluding constantly to hatreds that obviously implicate me by virtue of no fact other than my gender (when in fact neither my gender nor yours is really one of the most important facts about either of us, and never appeared to me to be at all; there are circumstances with some persons that can of course change that,
but in philosophical arguments that is normally not what is on one’s mind).
The other obnoxious thing you have been doing recently is all of your endless complaints about me in terms of how I present or express myself, in speech or writing. My accent, my rhetoric, my clothing, my writing with more than a few short sentences, the things I say that you believe I should not have (though it apparently is fine if I go in thinking; then I suppose we can dissemble together)… Are you, then, a friend or some kind of virtual one-woman police force? The very idea that there are things people believe and quite firmly but ought not to say.
On the other hand, I am very appreciative of the 2-3 very nice and to me interesting suggestions of places and events that you rightly guessed I might like. Thank you! It was as if, and almost uncannily, as if these suggestions were carefully tailored to please me and perhaps even seem like invitations to some renewed or deepened friendship, which in principle I might like, and did have some vague but pleasant thoughts along those lines. This alone made me think you unusually charming these recent occasions of encountering you, as too did our multi-train conversation after that last film we both saw.
I think you will have noted already that I am much more of a gentle man in person, but I have an acerbic literary style, I do not shun but enjoy arguments, and my letters (and emails) are more literary than they are “communicative” (these are two purposes exclusive of one another as usually understand). (I comfort myself in the face of accusers of the crime of verbosity that the philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, author of an authoritative intellectual history of Marxism, once wrote (and published, but I assume also sent) a 60-page letter to English Marxist historian E.P. Thompson). Every philosopher I know in Europe has rejected the idea of a communicative ethics; writing is in essence expression of thought (or feeling articulated through and as thought, since writing involves concepts and statements), and the letter that is thoughtful rather than a mere sign that the two are still friends, as in most Christmas cards, is a hybrid in this regard but I would say that the addressed character of the personal letter is more like the envelope of the content that is what is said. To give someone what they expected exactly is the same as returning a gift, and this is always an insult.
“Communication” may well follow an almost infinitely denumerable set of social norms that participants must observe or be thought gauche, impolite, or even — why not??? – crazy. “Yes, indeed, I’m a crazy New Yorker,” he said; now how much do I owe you? Here; is this right?”
You may not mean it this way, I’m sure you don’t, but much of your recent behavior seems to me like a form of subtle harassment of the
type I think American liberals are pretty good at. I don’t like this or them.
To my way of thinking, it seems to me there is something wrong in our encounters. Was I a shmuck with you ever in the past? You
always did what I describe above. This time seeing you recently you were very friendly when not into this but when you were you laid it on especially thick. How many rules are there for proper behavior of friends and fellow citizens in our idea of the republic?
As I said, I don’t like hippies; I was into punk. That means not shunning conversation or needing always to be cool. It has nothing to do with gender except when some people say it does. Most college educated Americans are member of the professional class trained to be managers and leaders, and that is why they have police society minds.
I am pleased — not or not only flattered personally but also my thinking, which matters to me more than my personal ego, is flattered in the sense of feeling appreciation for a line of thinking or a possible line of thinking. I will have more to say, hopefully in some pieces I can try to publish, about how I think our nation’s ultra-liberalism /neoliberalism / therapeutic spirituality society has led directly into an authoritarian capitalism blatantly quasi-fascist police state, of which Trump is merely the name and a name which is a concept that indicates legitimation of this style, which is also
and perhaps primarily a certain way of using language.
I cannot agree that you ought not to explain to me your ideas about “men” or “types of men.” Do or do I not, in your mind, fit within this category? I am strong enough of spirit or mind not to be intimidated by any female friend’s unrelenting references to some kind of presumably schmuckish behavior no the part of some kinds of men, not to mention by your taking care over time to make it clear that this really is your one great political passion, though it is one of ressentiment. Do you or do you not place me in that category? Might you or might you not? Obviously, if some men might be, then any men will be if he meets the criteria or fits the pattern. Then what is the pattern or criteria? I am not asking for
a confessionnal narrative of your past, because that is personal enough that I would only expect any friend to tell me personal things
if he or she is motivated to do so by a level of trust that people only as well acquainted as you and I presently are and presumably shall remain generally do not feel comfortable sharing. No problem. But why not discuss the general ideas or figurations thereof, rough notions of a type given by fictional characters, film or literary analogies, or what have you? Yes, I think that you owe me an explanation, for this and for some other aspects of your recent behavior. You lived in Berkeley as I did, you came of age around the high point of the 60s, decade that I missed, and of adulthood in the 70s, decade that I remember so well. I knew neohippies and punks. I was a punk. We didn’t like the hippies, and I hated Berkeley apart from the Pacific Film Archive and a few brilliant professors. I do not like liberals. I have become more hard core since returning to New York because of almost unbelievable shit that happened to me, and that is one reason I say that Trump is just the name for some set of things that had already happened. I do not like them. As I do know that you do not.
I don’t think constantly about gender. Of course there are types of women I do not like. Berkeley has them in spades, or it did. I have written about this, as I think you know. Why, dearest friend, if I lay my cards on the table (and they are because I am a writer and have already said a lot about various aspects of some of these subjects(, will you not, when you have done and said much that does concern me, and that I found myself compelled to question in the first place just out puzzlement and so wonder and curiosity, in part because I insist with myself on questioning or allowing to be questioned my prejudices or predispositions of belief.
If you had a body double who was a police informant, it would not matter, because they at the very least are of course tributary to the NSA which reads all our emails at least with computerized algorithms that are as effective at pinpointing dissident ideas and disaffected persons as Google’s are at ranking websites for searches. Why, if I have my cards on the table, would you refuse to show yours in at least the manner appropriate to answering my questions which are highly relevant and certainly to any prospect of our continued friendship in any meaningful way? What are you not saying and why? Or am I supposed to just infer it from he signals and signs?
People who communicate in signals and signs are not friends; it can very easily seem like harassment. Often it is manipulation; the Trojan Horse was not a statement but a sign. Signs must be decoded and can easily mislead, and so are often used with the intention to do so. The only possible alibi in most such cases is just that the person is a naif. And therefore a fool. Being a fool in dark times like ours is dangerous. If you doubt this, and I am certain you do not, ask me or read my writings. I don’t expect them to interest anyone. But I find your recent behavior as incomprehensible as you appear to find mine. And I don’t see that mine is. After all, I am, if not generally verbose, and I apologize if I have said too much for your taste, which I can only qualify by pointing out that a reader who is not in bad faith will stop reading when bored or annoyed and not complain after doing so that you forced her or him to read it, because no reader in the history or writing has ever been forced by an author writing from an elsewhere and read in a later time to read what is written, even if addressed to them personally and sent to them as a letter.
For one last time, in the years I have known you (since 2003), you have probably referenced or hinted at your profound anger at men of some kind or your angry feminist convictions of some kind without ever making at all clear what any of this is about and what if anything it has to do with me. All I know is that you also each time have adamantly refused discussion by or with me of what you bring up. Incessantly.
So, again, dearest and esteemed friend, fellow sometime lover of radical philosophies, who does care about justice and the good,
enough even to be bothered by its palpable lack, as is so evident in at least the last 6 weeks in this country, — che cosa? (Why) is that too much to ask? You could of course answer it in any way you like. I do not like it when people make half-statements to me, or statements that to me make no good sense. I do indeed reiterate my claim about media norms of discourse and things like Twitter, or the sound byte, in reference to common notions about propriety in length or form of discourse in letters.
You also strike me as a funny feminist if you have not read all the most important feminist theorists. I grant that most American intellectual types are dilletantes, but I think that an unflattering thing to be too much of. One then risks becoming like Sartre’s “Self-Taught Man,” who wants to know everything because he cares in particular for nothing and so has no itch to scratch and no real curiosity. Sometimes I have thought (because I have observed) that women are much more likely than men to be that way, but as you know I refuse all normative ideas of gender. (Descriptive observations of statistical patterns or prevailing social norms are sociological and not normative notions and so cannot be called sexist, which is a kind of moralist critique of a moralism, here absent. On the descriptive point, I just don’t know, and it doesn’t matter all that much since we all can try to surround ourselves with those whom we like most for whatever reason.
You and I are clearly too people who can enjoy each other’s company at least in some respects (I have quite enjoyed yours recently on those 2, or was it 3? seems like it! occasion), and who both have strong needs in terms of what the people close to us must at least avoid doing if not also for what we must positively do. I have a vague sense of yours but it’s difficult to really see clearly because I don’t see the principle that explains your defensive behavior. Defensiveness is fine, without it we would die rapidly from inability to cope with bombardments of excess stimuli (as we know from Freud). And I have mine. We presume, or want to, that those of our friends are rational. They can seem not to be, and then, at least for a person like me, an explanation or interpretation is needed. The former is better because it then becomes an interpretation that is shared or at least recognized by both persons. In my case, I have my own triggers. I think by now you know what at least some of them are, because I have told you, and you have read some of my writings. I have written a lot in the last few years, some of it is on my blogsite, and that is a lot, some pieces are long. I know you have read some of them. And there too you told me not to discuss it, even though you, i am sure, already know exactly what I think.
So you are an avoidant liberal, and that is because you are a bit of a Bay Area 1970s neohippie, which could just mean that you have read not enough things that would cause anyone to if not question that at least know why “we” do not like it. It is the avoidant behavior. That is why I asked if you are a trauma survivor. I told you that I am, and I also told you that among my traumatic memories is a sexual assault (which almost killed me; another one happened recently, and it was a race-baiting Black liberal art school graduate New England BASP (Black anglo-protestant) (if I were really pissed off at you, and I am not, all my anger is about more general things and you cannot possibly do anything that would make you object of it in any way except participate in it, and then, in part because I know that you are not my problem, and in greater part for obviously larger reasons that we might simply call moral, all you will ever get from me that will seem in any way unpleasant is a verbal shit storm. You may think this letter is that, and I am sorry if you do, because shit the defining qualities that it is offensive merely and not interesting, meaning nothing is said. The American liberal tendency among so many women of the professional class in particular to do something that thank God I have never seen you do: reduce what someone has said to a mere expression of disaffected emotion and thus material for a therapy or “spirituality” machine of correctional treatment rather than as material for thought. Language properly used is always thought. I reserve the right to do that, on the rare occasions that call for it, and when I do all of my “aggression” is in my use of words. Further, I will not do anything that is other than a mere speech act that you have asked me not to do, although I will certainly not appreciate it (and will then need to and will talk about it, in writing, and probably not to you – at all, anymore) if you then claim that my persistent tap on the shoulder or whatever is some kind of grand scheme (imaginary) sexual assault. If you do that, well, please don’t. I assume not but a good friend of mine whom I am still friends with in fact and is a feminist anthropology professor did something like that with me and I turned pale with a disgust that was simply beyond words. I let her know in a brief message that she was persona non grata in my world because this is stupid and horrible, it smacks of what I have never hesitated to call Nazi feminism. And she is a liberal, thinks she is a leftist, and that’s fine, she is sincere. I later relented and even saw her again. She probably forgot it; she being from a Catholic country probably even forgave me in the interiority of her own conscience. If she brought it up, I would say, no, it is you who were wrong, let’s look at why. She did not; I doubtless will not either since I already told her how I feel and why I think she was dead wrong (and in fact I consider that kind of reaction a blatant threat to invoke state violence against me — she and I are surely equally vulnerable if in different ways). So that’s me. A firestorm of words in your face is the worst thing I have ever done or wanted to do to any woman or man. If you believe otherwise about me, please either tell me and tell me exactly how and why or stop believing that or don’t talk to me or take your own risk of la noia, being annoyed or offended, if you do.
If you do not respond to this email and this conversation does not continue – or get started, because this letter is an attempt on my part to begin a conversation we have never had and that I feel almost as if I need – I shall not be at all surprised, just very disappointed. Because you are better than that. I don’t know anyone as smart as you who would behave that way unless someone whose interests would necessarily be contrary to mine is paying them. That would surprise me, and disappoint me also. I don’t think anything like that is possible in your instance, of course; someone who did that would make fewer mistakes and probably be getting paid well enough to live much more comfortably than I suspect you do.
Again, if I offend you here and should not have, please also keep in mind that I write usually in a somewhat piquant and acerbic
style. That is my style. Styles do not have rules! (Kant argued this also). I think the best friends understand even what may seem like an accusation; a foe will exaggerate his pique at this and claim offense to the high heavens with many exclamation points, but then of course, one like me would just see that as more of the same.